Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The focus should always be on the way

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Travention: booking platform travel planning and execution within the USA combines flights, hotels, car rentals and activities

Please introduce yourself and the Startup Travention to our readers!

My name is Kevin Scarsella von Haag (Bachelor of Business Administration / BA-Eventmanagement). I am one of three founders of Travention LLC. and work there as Head of Finance & Legal Dept. in San Antonio TX. With a lot of experience in leadership at a young age in various industries, I knew very early on that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I remember that I started trading sweets at the sports field when I was 9 years old. Buy offers and sell at normal market prices. Finance has always been my passion. Together with my co-founders Christopher Steiner (Head of Tourism and Sales) and my wife Jacqueline Scarsella (Head of Marketing and Communications) we founded Travel Event Emotion. Travention stands for exactly these 3 basic elements, because travel is not just travel, it is like an event: unique and interspersed with pure emotion.

The All-In-One booking platform creates a place where it is possible to combine all components, whether flight, accommodation, rental vehicles, and activities, to your desired journey. Plan live with your friends or with your family together or just yourself and do so without being forwarded to countless platforms.

Everything compact, everything in one place, everything as individual as you are!

Why did you decide to start a business?

We are originally from Germany (Stuttgart). Christopher (trained travel agent) and I have relatives in different states. It all started with the longing for home, the USA, growing over the years. Through my experience in senior management in the hotel and gastronomic industry, I came up with the idea of opening a restaurant in New Orleans. This is a big step, and my wife Jacqueline Scarsella (BA of Sociology) has never been to the United States before, a holiday to get to know each other was on the agenda.

We decided for a road trip for three through the USA, which we connected with family visits. So, one day we sat together and planned the route across the country.

Easier said than done.

From Germany by plane to New Orleans to a hotel and on by coach (Flixbus) to San Antonio to the family, with a private vehicle to Los Angeles to stay in a holiday home, to Las Vegas by RV and with a rental car back to New Orleans. From there, take the plane back to Germany.

Quite a lot, isn’t it? It already started to get difficult when we wanted to combine our private vehicle with the rental car and the flights. Every online tour operator, who offered individual travel , wanted to sell us a completely different route.

In our own research, we were confronted with problems such as price fluctuations, additional hidden fees and redirects to an infinite number of travel platforms.

We were told in customer service that our trip was too extensive. But why? It is our journey, it is our money and it is our wishes. Why can’t we plan it the way we want? This is due to brokerage agreements with selected partners and fee agreements. They must not. We took almost 3 weeks, had almost no activities on the route, because many providers cannot afford to market on large portals with these prices. and we left out our destinations and wishes in order to be able to pay for the trip at all. We had to insure ourselves, as we booked everything on our own. Simply a disaster.

It is time to clean up the travel market. It is your journey.

What is the vision behind Travention?

“Our goal is to offer our customers the opportunity to have a platform for all of their travel needs, from booking various travel elements to planning and organizing their trip alone or with fellow travelers more transparently, more quickly and more cost-effectively than ever before.”

From the idea to the start, what have been the biggest challenges so far and how have you financed yourself?

From the idea to the present day, there have been many challenges. With Travention, we developed a booking system that has never existed in this form before, which in turn resulted in many complications. Since we source our prices directly from all providers, big or small, and do not charge any brokerage and commission fees, we were initially happy to be ridiculed: „too good to be true” has often fallen.

But that is precisely our goal. Too good to be true! 

There is nothing (especially in such a crisis) that is too good to be true, but only the focus on a fair solution that benefits both sides (providers and customers) and we stand by that.

We opted for the old-fashioned bootstrapping. We worked 18 hours a day for our company and for our jobs. With the motivation that our idea “could be the next Uber” (startup night CMT 2019) we stayed at the ball and funded ourselves. It took over 280,000 USD to stand where we are now. We had an investment increase of 680,000 USD just before the pandemic.

Currently the offer is paused due to Covid-19.

All the more difficult it was for us to reject at a fair 2020 the extremely high offer (lower 8 digits amount) of one of the largest travel providers for our patents and the booking system. But we refused, because otherwise our idea becomes what we are trying to change.

Currently we are still looking for investors and are all the happier that big companies like Marriott, Moxy, Sheraton, SIXT Rental, and many more. believe in us and have joined the Travention Network, even though we are not even on the market. These successes leave us with the motivation to fight our way through.

Who is the target group of Travention?

Our target group is easy to define, it’s people like us: people who want to combine family visits and holidays. Customers who are looking for an adventure and are happy to plan by themselves. Users of our booking platform are people who value flexibility and have individual needs. People who like to make road trips and don’t just sleep in the hotel or are only on the road with a means of transport. It doesn’t matter if business trips with your colleagues to see what you can experience in a foreign city. Or privately friends who want to discover their own country together. All those who want to plan and book their own personal trip. 

How does Travention work? What are the advantages? What sets you apart from other providers?

Thanks to our own booking algorithm, it is possible to plan and book everything in one place with a 24 live feed. The Travention platform includes a step-by-step guide that uses various tools to help you plan and book your desired trip, as well as help with budget control. Plan with your friends or family or even alone your means of transport, whether only flight or own arrival by flight and rental car. Simply place your preferred means of transport on the routes between destinations. Plan your desired accommodation, whether private or hotels and apartments. Also, the length of stay per destination and the activities on the route and on site. Plan different times with our calendar tool and keep an eye on your whole journey. Chat with your friends or plan together in live share.

And finally, you book your dream trip comfortably without endless redirects directly on the Travention platform. Our main strengths are our pricing policy, flexibility and transparency.

It is also possible to obtain the direct prices of the individual providers for the first time at Travention. We are the first booking platform without brokerage fees and commission fees, much to the delight of the providers and the customers.

Compared to a trip for 2 people worth 4000 USD, the direct travel price without fees is almost 2300 USD. The rest are booking fluctuations, commission fees, and other unnecessary costs. For all the tools, all-in-one planning and budget control, our customers pay a maximum of 250 USD usage contribution per trip. That means a trip like the one mentioned above costs a maximum of 2800 USD for two people at Travention. And this makes us the cheapest individual travel provider and completely differentiates ourselves from the market.

How has your company changed with Corona?

The COVID pandemic had various consequences for us. The main negative consequences are our market entry, which we have currently postponed. Added to this is the paused investment of the capital company. In the last 2 months, we have had almost 1300 applicants for 80 positions, and we also have to put them on pause at the moment, as we cannot yet define exactly how to start work. The focus is also clearly on the hygiene regulations of the individual suppliers on site. That’s why we’ve created a team that tests and checks vendors according to a control protocol in order to provide the customers with safe services when entering the market.

How did you adjust to it and what changes have you made?

In a crisis meeting, we analyzed the opportunities and risks in detail. In general, I think it is important to make it clear that any negative impact on companies also has a new opportunity. We would like other tour operators to rethink their pricing policy as the crisis has shown how many individual providers have totally pushed this type of Commission policy out of the market. Only our enquiries from the individual providers were immediately answered with a YES to our concept. Since many providers only complain about the big organizers.

Due to the COVID crisis, our company has clearly become more specialized in the providers of the tourism industry in order to help inbound tourism.

Where do you see the opportunity in the crisis?

Every Medal has 2 pages. The good thing is that we got a kind of golden ticket. The fact that we have not yet launched does not result in any financial losses. We will be on the market from day 1 with 100% performance. Inbound tourism will also go through the roof after the pandemic, especially in the Wings and Wheels area, and thus our niche market is growing into the unexpected for the time being. In a meeting with our partners and industry experts, our booking volume will increase by 189% in the first year. We had planned to put 30 at the beginning. However, in order to be able to handle the service we promise to handle with this number of bookings, it became 80 jobs. In addition, we reach new suppliers every day who, thanks to our pricing policy, want to change supplier and join us.

Travention, where is the path going? Where do you see yourself in five years?

Travention sees itself in 5 years as an established startup in the tourism industry. Employee’s, expansion and new offices in major cities to have Travention agents directly on site, which serve as a kind of caregiver for our customers. Market expansion with a flight taxi option and maybe even a Travention CAR sharing model

In the end: What 3 tips would you give future founders?

“There are many good ideas of humanity, it often paints only the power to implement them.”

There is much to consider today. But the focus should always be on the way.

It is time to think about the solution instead of the sales. 

Thank you Kevin Scarsella von Haag for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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